Apr 182014
Calgary Stampede Parade

The name of this post: “Calgary then and now – Stampede Parade”, is I guess, technically incorrect. While the first image shows that event, making it right in respects to that, the second does not, and it could not. You see, first we shot our “now” photo in the depths of winter (well, almost spring) many months removed from the summer spectacle that is the Calgary Stampede. Second, even if it was parade day, the procession no longer passes this location. The C-Train LRT tracks means the route has been changed and now it passes a block to the north.

The old image is dated 1957 and was taken along 7th Avenue SW at Centre Street. Seen in behind in are a number of noteworthy subjects and buildings, most of them, sadly, now gone.

The main building seen is the York Hotel, also called the Hotel York – I’ve seen it both ways (what we can see of the sign suggests Hotel York). Built in 1929 and opened the following year, it was one of Calgary’s preeminent places to stay of that era, perhaps second only in status to the prestigious CPR’s Palliser Hotel a few blocks away. The land on which the York sits was earlier a Presbyterian Church.

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The building had a number of interesting art-deco inspired facades (technically frieze) on the upper floors. These are not seen in the old photo.

As time passed, the York’s status as a fine establishment transformed and by the time it closed in the early 1990s it was a typical dive hotel. You know the type, a place where no one in their right mind would stay or eat or drink. Most of the rooms were rented by the month and were home winos, the downtrodden, the forgotten and the aged. On the main floor there was a coffee shop and of course a beer parlour. The latter was a place where people did not go to socialize (for the most part) but rather to get drunk. In the late 1980s there was a also a tittie bar on the premises. They were popular at the time in the city.

This author had the opportunity to stay at the hotel as a kid in the early 1970s. I am not sure why were in town though. I recall it being a cool building and I spent a good deal of time investigating all the hallways and any open rooms. I’m still the same love-to-explore person today.

When it closed in 1992 it was bought by the city and turned into a low cost housing complex. It was torn down around 2007, although the facades mentioned earlier where saved and as I understand it, will be incorporated into a new building at some point. The land on which the hotel stood is vacant, as of the writing of this article.

Seen in behind the York is a row of low buildings. The one furthest away still exists and is the Royal Canadian Legion #1 branch, the structure with the blue wall in our shot. It was constructed in the early 1920s and early on was known as the Great War Veteran’s Association. None of the other small buildings in front of it have been identified.

Seen in behind the Legion is the St Regis Hotel which is still standing today and is the only large building seen in both the then and now photos. When built, in 1913, it was known as the Grunwald Hotel. A new owner took it over a few years later and the name was changed to the current one. The building is one of a handful of pre-World War One hostelries left in the city and was closed a half dozen years ago. From the late 1990s on, it was called the Regis Plaza although the sign seen on the west facing side of the building was not changed.

Early on it was a respectful businessman’s hotel, a nice modestly priced place to stay. However as the years passed by, as was the case with many old hotels, it slowly changed its character, becoming a seedy place where no person in their right mind would venture into. Like the York mentioned earlier, in the last few decades of its existence it was a haven for society’s castoffs. The building is empty right now but is due to be saved and it’s been suggested it’ll be incorporated into a new complex built beside it. Interestingly, the Regis and York were both owned by the same person during the 1930s and into the 1940s.

Seen directly behind the Regis in the old picture is the Calgarian Hotel (simply the Calgarian, sometimes mistakenly called the Calgary-Inn – note the phonetic similarities). Was it one side of the building as is suggested by its different colour when compared to the other, or was it both sides? I am afraid nothing turns up in respects to that.

The Calgarian burned down in the mid-1980s and was replaced by a smaller structure which still stands today. The hotel has long since vacated this incarnation of itself and for a time after it closed it was used a drop in centre and at other times appeared to be vacant.

Nothing is known about the building in the foreground, with the bowling pin sign, although research continues (and of course we love to hear from our readers if they know more). Love that neon! The other buildings seen in the foreground and behind in our photo are new enough that they are of little interest from a historical perspective. Perhaps as they age with the coming decades that will change. Or not.

Note the trolley bus wires in the old picture. These were gone by the mid-1970s. Since 1981 the LRT has travelled down 7th Avenue, which is otherwise closed to vehicular traffic. Note the oncoming train in our picture.

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

Most obvious in the old photo is the parade itself. This event kicked off the self proclaimed “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” a rodeo and festival held annually (save for a few missed years early on) since 1912. Notice the very cool Willy’s Army Jeep and the mounted RCMP officers behind, along with the throngs of people watching the parade. That’s something that has not changed and today finding a spot to view the parade is just as hard, or perhaps even harder than it was in the 1950s when the first photo was taken. The current parade travels one block to the north now, as you may recall us saying.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s to happen to the empty space seen in our photo. As you recall there are some plans to fill up that empty space (vacant lots in downtown are a real rarity) although the exact details are unknown. Regardless, the Regis seems to be safe. Who knows what’s in store for the Legion – it’s an historically recognized building so maybe it will be around for a long time too? As mentioned the old York facades will be incorporated into what ever is built there.

As is the case with any old photos we come across that show people, we often wonder what has become of them. Where do they live, are they even alive, what are they doing now? Its’ fodder for an active imagination, but likely questions that will never be answered.

The original image is courtesy James Tworow and comes from his family’s collection. Thank you James for allowing us use of the image. It’s a wonderful slice of time.

To see some other Calgary then and now posts, follow these links…
Calgary then and now – the Saddledome.
Calgary Transit then and now – trolleys buses and Devenish Apartments.
Calgary Transit then and now – Scarboro United Church.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: March, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.

Calgary Stampede Parade

The Calgary Stampede Parade circa 1957.

Regis Hotel Calgary

In 2014, the St Regis Hotel is the only prominent structure left from that earlier scene.


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6 Comments on "Calgary then and now – Stampede Parade"

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I remember the Regis in the 1980s. Cheap loaded burgers. Cheap pitchers. An interior that hadn’t been touched and rarely cleaned, in decades. It was our hang out, cause it was cheap, during my college days. I lived in the beltline, well withing staggering distance of the place.


A few years ago during New Years, okay more like decade or two ago, a few friends and I were bar hopping around downtown and hit up both the York and St Regis. God, they were dumps. Good times!

Ian Whitt
Ian Whitt

First job was at the York Hotel and then the Wales Hotel. Got in to the Hotel existence and subsequent SAIT Education for Business Hotel Management. They were great places to drink, dine and party (best Cabaret in the City) in the 60’s and ’70’s, a before being sold off and becoming just another East End – Calgary Hotel.